Planning the ultimate Lake District road trip to do in a day? It may be challenging, but you can squeeze towns like Ambleside, museums including Beatrix Potter’s former home and even mountain climbing into a one-day Lake District road trip.
The Lake District is one of England’s most beautiful National Parks, having inspired the work of legendary authors ranging from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter.
If you can, spend at least a few days or even weeks in the Lake District to see everything this beautiful region in England has to offer. However, if you have your own vehicle, it’s certainly possible to visit many of the Lake District’s most famous towns and attractions within the space of a day. Naturally, we want to highlight the best of the Lake District in a day!
Our recommended Lake District road trip itinerary starts towards the south of the National Park in the town of Ulverston and ends in the northern Lake District town of Keswick. Along the route, you’ll visit Bowness-on-Windermere, Rydal Hall, Scafell Pike, and much more.
To complete this itinerary, you’ll need to drive a distance of around 97 miles, which will take around four hours – though that doesn’t include any time spent at each attraction.
So, this road trip through the Lake District will certainly be a challenge, but a challenge that’s doable if you start early. If you end up staying in this picturesque National Park for a night or two, we’ll suggest a few other places you might want to visit during your getaway.
The Ultimate Lake District Road Trip
Want to see as much of the Lake District by car as possible in the space of a day? As long as you have a car, you can visit all these amazing destinations on a one-day Lake District road trip itinerary.
You’ll start your Lakes road trip in the town of Ulverston, which is located just outside of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria’s South Lakeland district.
Some of the most famous landmarks in Ulverston include the Laurel & Hardy Museum, the Sir John Barrow Monument and Holker Hall, which is a must-visit attraction if you like England’s stately homes and impressive English gardens.
Within the town of Ulverston, you’ll find plenty of traditional pubs serving classic British grub, independent shops and high-street stores. It’s the perfect place to start your road trip through the Lake District before heading into the National Park itself.
2. Coniston Water
The next stop on your Lake District road trip will be Coniston Water, which is about a 30-minute drive away from Ulverston.
Coniston Water is a tranquil lake that you might be able to enjoy all to yourself if you arrive early enough. The best views of Coniston Water and its surrounding lakes can be seen from the historic jetty.
In recent years, Coniston Water has become a popular spot for wild swimming. It’s also one of the region’s best places for paddle boarding.
After taking a stroll around Coniston Water, you’ll follow one of the most scenic Lake District drives to the town of Bowness-on-Windermere, which sits right next to the Lake District’s largest lake (another fantastic spot for paddle boarding).
Bowness-on-Windermere was once a small fishing village, and much of its Victorian-era charm is still on display in the form of historic buildings and traditional pubs.
The most famous attractions in Bowness-on-Windermere is probably the World of Beatrix Potter, where you can step into recreated scenes from famous children’s stories including The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Other highlights of this picturesque town include the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, the Lakes Aquarium and Wray Castle, one of the most fascinating castles in England.
Besides famous landmarks, Bowness-on-Windermere is home to antique stores, boutiques and art galleries that give a nod to the town’s heritage.
If you don’t have to compete with too much traffic, it should take just over half an hour to drive from Coniston Water to Bowness-on-Windermere via the A591, one of our favourite Lake District scenic drives. If scenic drives are your cup of tea, check out the great drives of England.
4. Rydal Hall
The next destination on your Lake District road trip will be Rydal Hall, otherwise known as Rydal Mount, which is the former home of literary legend William Wordsworth. It’s still owned by the Wordsworth family to this day.
Inside Rydal Hall, you’ll see a range of fascinating exhibits that detail the life and work of William Wordsworth. Outside, you can explore the estate’s beautifully landscaped gardens.
If you happen to be visiting the Lake District at Christmas, we highly recommend attending the Rydal Hall Christmas Fair, when craft workshops, garden gazebos and live music are all part of the festive entertainment.
It should take just over 15 minutes to drive from Bowness-on-Windermere to Rydal Hall.
Flanking the shores of Lake Windermere – the largest lake in the Lake District – Ambleside is one of the Lake District’s most popular tourist destinations.
While exploring Ambleside’s maze of winding roads, you’ll see quaint cottages, old farm buildings, independent shops and an abundance of delicious pubs serving tasty British grub. If you want to admire Ambleside from the water, hire a rowing boat or embark on a lake cruise.
Famous highlights of Ambleside include the Armitt Library & Museum Centre, the Ghyll Force Waterfall, the Stagshaw Gardens and the historic Bridge House.
It should only take around five minutes to drive from Rydal Hall to Ambleside.
Grasmere is one of the Lake District’s most visited villages, largely due to its undeniably beautiful looks. Famous writer William Wordsworth once described Grasmere as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’.
One of our favourite places to visit in Grasmere has to be Dove Cottage, the former home of William Wordsworth. If you’re a fan of historical architecture, you might want to visit Saint Oswald’s Church. When you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, you simply need to visit the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop – the home of delicious Grasmere Gingerbread.
Grasmere is less than five miles from Ambleside, and the drive should only take around 15 minutes if you take the A591 route. If you only have one day in Cumbria, Grasmere should be on your must-visit list.
7. Hill Top (the former home of Beatrix Potter)
If you’re visiting the Lake District to honour the region’s multitude of iconic writers, you need to pay a visit to Hill Top, the former home of Beatrix Potter.
The Hill Top is a charming farmhouse that dates back to the 17th century. It was purchased by Beatrix Potter in 1905 using her earnings from her famous first novel, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. When you see this wonderful cottage and its scenic surrounds, you’ll understand why Potter decided this farmhouse was a more-than-worthwhile investment. She ended up writing at least 13 of her books while living at the Hill Top.
If the traffic conditions are favourable, it should only take around 30 minutes to drive from Grasmere to the Hill Top via the A591.
8. Little Langdale
Now that you’ve visited a few of the Lake District’s most popular towns, it’s time to head to a remote village to experience a bit of tranquility – and to check out one of the region’s oldest surviving slate bridges.
A walk across the 17th-century Slater’s Bridge is like taking a step back in time. It might not be huge, but Slater’s Bridge is considered to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the Lake District. If you fancy an easy walk in the Lake District, consider hiking ten minutes from Elterwater to Slater’s Bridge.
Little Langdale is about ten miles from the Hill Top, taking just under 30 minutes to drive from one location to the other. Along the route, you’ll be able to soak up awe-inspiring Lake District scenery, including Lake Windermere and towns such as Ecclerigg.
9. Scafell Pike
At an elevation of 978 metres, Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, making it one of the best places to take in panoramic views of the Lake District National Park.
Admittedly, you might have to dedicate at least a couple of hours to climbing Scafell Pike, meaning you might not be able to take on the challenge as part of your one-day Lake District road trip itinerary. Still, while you’re visiting the area, you shouldn’t miss the chance to soak up the view of England’s tallest mountain from ground level.
It only takes around ten minutes to drive from Little Langdale to Seascale near Cockley Beck, which is where you’ll find one of the many trails that leads to the summit of Scafell Pike.
READ MORE: The Best Caves in the Lake District
The final stop on our one-day Lake District road trip is the town of Keswick, which is famous for being in close proximity to the beautiful Derwentwater lake and the surrounding Lake District scenery.
While Keswick is undisputedly picturesque, the town mainly appeals to those looking to make the most of the outdoors during their time in the Lake District. Popular activities in Keswick include cycling, hiking, gill scrambling and kayaking.
Some of the most popular attractions in Keswick include the Derwent Pencil Museum, Hope Park and the Theatre By The Lake.
From the foot of Scafell Pike, it should take around 30 minutes to drive to Keswick. On the way, you might want to pay a quick visit to Borrowdale, a postcard-perfect valley that’s popular with walkers. If you can’t get enough of the English countryside, you might want to learn about England’s best National Trails.
More Places to Visit on your Lake District Road Trip
Fancy making more of your getaway by adding an extra day to your Lake District travel itinerary? Here are a few more of our favourite places to visit in the Lake District.
If you have enough time to squeeze a few more destinations into your Lake District road trip, you might want to visit Ravenglass, a beautiful coastal village in Cumbria. While you here, you can discover the ancient ruins of the Ravenglass Roman Bathhouse.
By the way, you can catch a glimpse of Ravenglass’s beauty by boarding a steam train that travels along the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, one of England’s most scenic train journeys.
Penrith is located just beyond the northeastern border of the Lake District National Park, not far from other natural hotspots such as the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Yorkshire Dales.
Cockermouth is a beautiful market town in Cumbria situated just beyond the northwestern border of the Lake District. From the highest viewpoints in Cockermouth, you can see as far as the Isle of Man on a clear day.
14. Castlerigg Stone Circle
Dating back over 5,000 years, Castlerigg is one of England’s oldest stone circles, making it a haven for history buffs. From the Castlerigg Stone Circle, you can take in panoramic views of the Helvellyn mountain range and the High Seat fell.
Have we missed anything from our Lake District road trip?
So, there you have it – our favourite Lake District road trip that you can cover in less than a day. By following our road trip, you’ll see the mountains, fells, lakes and historical landmarks that make the Lake District an internationally acclaimed tourist destination. You’ll also get to visit some of the region’s lesser-known hotspots.
Are there any amazing destinations we haven’t mentioned that could be visited on our one-day Lake District itinerary? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Quick list of places to visit on your Lake District road trip
- Coniston Water
- Rydal Hall
- Hill Top (the former home of Beatrix Potter)
- Little Langdale
- Scafell Pike
- Castlerigg Stone Circle